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Belgium in Brief: The Bumpy Vaccination Roadmap

Credit: Belga

Belgium’s largest vaccination centre has been forced to close for the day, around 24 hours after it opened to great fanfare.

It could almost be comedic, in a dark humour sort of way, if it wasn’t just so depressing.

Belgium has come under fire for not vaccinating quickly enough. Those of us with family and friends outside of the country likely know someone who already got the vaccine. In Belgium, I don’t know a single person who has.

Speaking earlier this month, Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said that “we should stop saying that other countries are faster” – pointing to the EU’s official “vaccine tracker” to defend his point that Belgium was doing better (or at least as well as) its neighbours.

Then, the facts supported his point. 

On 4 February, the tracker showed that Belgium had vaccinated 3.1% of its population against Covid-19, better than neighbouring countries Germany and France (both 2.8%), Luxembourg (2.3%), and the Netherlands (1.1%).

Now, it’s not so clear.

On 17 February, the tracker showed that Belgium had vaccinated 4% of its population against Covid-19, the same as Germany. France (4.3%) and the Netherlands (4.5%) have both pulled ahead, but Luxembourg (3.6%) remains behind.

This isn’t absolute. There are mitigating factors such as population size and which vaccines these countries receive – but when we’re seeing tech issues holding up giving the vaccines we have to the groups we’ve labelled as priority, it’s hard to know how things will play out.

What’s been your experience? Have you received a note? Any information?

Let @johnstonjules know on Twitter.

Belgium in Brief is a free daily roundup of the top stories to get you through your lunch break conversations. To receive it straight to your inbox every day, sign up below:



1. Belgium needs ‘hotel quarantines’ following Brazilian variant, says Van Ranst

Belgium should require a ‘hotel quarantine’ for travellers coming from certain countries, to prevent the Brazilian coronavirus variant from spreading, according to virologist Marc Van Ranst.

Travellers coming to Belgium from Brazil or Portugal should be put in hotel quarantine to make sure they do not infect others with the Brazilian variant, Van Ranst told De Morgen on Wednesday morning. Read More.

2. Belgium’s largest vaccination centre closes 24h after opening

The Heysel vaccination centre in Belgium – the current largest in the country – has been forced to temporarily close its doors after a technical error in the system.

An IT fault which has hit centres across the country fundamentally means that invites to be vaccinated were not sent, leaving the centre with no visits for its second day of operation. Read more.

3. EU officials in Brussels will get own vaccination centres

People working for international institutions based in Brussels, such as the European Commission and NATO, will be vaccinated against the coronavirus in separate vaccination centres, that will not be used for the rest of the population. Read More.

4. Possible Dutch curfew suspension won’t change things for Belgium

A ruling by a Dutch court to immediately lift the Netherlands’ curfew measure has been suspended until the end of the week, and is not expected to have an impact in Belgium.

On Tuesday, a court in The Hague ruled that the Dutch curfew measure – which forbids anyone without a valid reason from being outside between 9:00 PM and 4:30 AM – had to be lifted immediately, as it was based on the wrong law.

The decision of a court in the Netherlands, however, has no impact on the measures in Belgium. Read More.

5. First cases of Brazilian strain detected in Belgium, more expected

The first infections of the more infectious Brazilian variant of the coronavirus (Covid-19) have been found in Belgium, according to several experts.

At least five cases of the P.1 strain, which can re-infect people who previously contracted another mutation, have been detected, with two confirmed samples in Brussels, one in Liège and one near Wezembeek-Oppem. Read More.

6. Ten Schengen countries introduced border controls for health reasons

In addition to Belgium, nine Member States of the Schengen or associated area have reintroduced border controls in recent weeks in the context of the health crisis.

The states in question are Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, Finland and Norway, which is not a member of the EU but is associated with the Schengen area of internal free movement. Read More.

7. Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine submitted for EU approval

Belgian-based company Janssen Pharmaceutica, owned by US-based Johnson & Johnson, submitted its vaccine against the new coronavirus (Covid-19) to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for approval on Tuesday.

The agency has confirmed it could make a decision on the vaccine, which requires just one dosis, by the middle of March. Read more.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times